Archos 9 Hands On: The Windows 7 Netbook That Lost Its Keyboard

We're probably not going to see an Apple tablet tomorrow, but the Archos 9 could hold us over. The "netblet" (yea, my portmanteau of the words netbook and tablet) runs Windows 7, but I'm not sure I'd shell out $500.

The 0.63-inch thin Archos 9 feels pretty sturdy, but one major complaint is that it feels heavy. Archos says it only weighs 1.2 pounds, but something about the balance is wrong, because it felt heavier than that in my hands. The hardware is pretty simple—a 9-inch resistive touchscreen (no multitouch) with a few surrounding physical buttons.

There is a Ctrl+Alt+Delete button and a keyboard trigger on the right, the latter which quickly launches Win 7's finger-friendly keyboard. (Archos will also market a USB keyboard along with a case.) If you don't like using your finger on the screen, there is a tiny optical trackpad on the right and two mouse buttons on the left side. The touchscreen is pretty responsive, and there is a stylus on the back, so I don't see the need to really reach for the bitty mouse. I've always found optical trackpad annoying as hell.

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The Archos 9 comes with Windows 7 Starter (remember that means no wallpaper changing or Aero) and its 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z515 processor and 1GB of RAM run it well. Watching a 720p Windows Media clip was decent, and when I fired up Wi-Fi and launched a browser, I was able to watch some streaming Hulu videos.

It only has 60GB of storage space, which could get cramped if you plan on keeping loads of video on it but doesn't seem like a deal breaker to me. My biggest worry is battery life. It has a 4-cell battery (which is actually swappable) but I am guessing it won't get more than 3 hours of juice.

I'll withhold final judgment until the full review. I am in search of a tablet like this for sitting back on the couch and surfing. The Archos could be it—though $500 is a bit much—but I've also still got my fingers crossed for a thinner and lighter Apple one.